Abstract: Practicing While Black: Responding to Everyday Racism in 2020 during Multiple Pandemics (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Practicing While Black: Responding to Everyday Racism in 2020 during Multiple Pandemics

Friday, January 13, 2023
Camelback B, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW, Associate Professor, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL
Ashley Morris, MSW, Social Worker/Doctoral Student, University of Central Florida - Social Work, Orlando, FL
Shelleta Ladonice, MSW, Graduate Research Associate, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL
Being a social worker during a time of crisis is difficult; being a Black female social worker during a time of crisis can be especially triggering, particularly when the crisis is race related. At the height of the COVID-19 global pandemic, while the world was on lockdown, a viral video showing the police murder of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, exposed America's racist underbelly. As Black and white Americans alike struggled to process these events in the midst of a global virus, many sought out Black therapists. Using an autobiographical feminist standpoint epistemology approach, we highlighted the stories of three Black female social workers. These narratives explore the lived experiences of Black female social workers practicing during multiple pandemics (racial and COVID-19), global lockdowns, economic and emotional uncertainty, political polarization and animosity due to the U.S. presidential elections, and Former President Trump’s refusal to concede the election and the subsequent Capitol insurrection. The narratives examine the countertransference that comes up in cross-racial and intra-racial therapeutic dynamics during these pandemics. Self-care is discussed, as it is essential for survival during these times and may look different for Black practitioners.


This paper presents autobiographical narratives from three Black female social workers practicing during the events of 2020 (the Covid-19 pandemic and the racial unrest after the murder of George Floyd). Author one is a tenured university professor, practicing clinical social worker, and supervisor to therapists from various clinical disciplines, with a focus on mentoring BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) social workers. Authors two and three are practicing, graduate-level counselors who hold Master of Social Work (MSW) degrees and are doctoral students.


Black social workers, we must help our BIPOC clients process the same racial trauma that we are experiencing; on the other hand, we must guide white clients through disagreements with friends and family members with whom they strongly disagree about the racial climate, Black Lives Matter, or Trump, or console them as they experience guilt or confusion while confronting their white privilege. Additionally, we are doing this during a Pandemic that is disproportionately affecting Black Americans at an alarming rate. Navigating a triple-faceted pandemic has been a feat. To tackle these daily issues, we must practice self-care. Taking extra good care of ourselves, especially in times of distress, helps us cope with the roller coaster of emotions and events around us and models to our clients the importance of self-care as a regular practice.

Conclusions and Implications

Intersectionality and critical race grounded theories provide a lens for understanding lived experiences of marginalized populations. Additionally, autobiographical narratives can provide unique insight into understudied populations and aid the development of inclusive and anti-racist teaching and social work practices.